Améndola, L., Weary, D. M. 2020. Understanding rat emotional responses to CO2. Translational Psychiatry 10, 253.
The aim of this review is to summarize evidence regarding rat emotional experiences during carbon dioxide (CO2) exposure. The studies reviewed show that CO2 exposure is aversive to rats, and that rats respond to CO2 exposure with active and passive defense behaviors. Plasma corticosterone and bradycardia increased in rats exposed to CO2. As with anxiogenic drugs, responses to CO2 are counteracted by the administration of anxiolytics, SRIs, and SSRI’s. Human studies reviewed indicate that, when inhaling CO2, humans experience feelings of anxiety fear and panic, and that administration of benzodiazepines, serotonin precursors, and SSRIs ameliorate these feelings. In vivo and in vitro rat studies reviewed show that brain regions, ion channels, and neurotransmitters involved in negative emotional responses are activated by hypercapnia and acidosis associated with CO2 exposure. On the basis of the behavioral, physiological, and neurobiological evidence reviewed, we conclude that CO2 elicits negative emotions in rats.